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In response to the nationwide protests in recent days following the death of an unarmed black man under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer, leaders of San Francisco’s black community joined city officials and actor Jamie Foxx for a “kneel-in” outside of City Hall.
Following a weekend of protesting and looting throughout the nation prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands showed up for Monday’s peaceful gathering, chanting “I can’t breathe” and carrying signs denouncing police violence.
The event was organized by the San Francisco organization Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community — Justice 4 Mario Woods.
“For too many decades, for centuries, black men have been persecuted in this country,” Supervisor Shamann Walton, a black man, said to the crowd. “These protests that you see are peaceful, but we are very tired of the same mantra and the same narrative. So, unless we begin to prosecute and incarcerate law enforcement for killing innocent black lives, we will continue to rise up.”
Mayor London Breed said, “My heart has been heavy. Yes, I’m the mayor, but I’m a black woman first. I grew up not too far from here in public housing. I never thought I’d be in any situation to push for change.”
Breed also spoke of her cousin who was killed by San Francisco police in 2006.
“There was no independent investigation. And I didn’t understand why. I get it, nobody is perfect. But my cousin didn’t deserve to die,” she said.
“What I’m seeing is the hurt, pain and frustration on everybody’s face right now and for African-Americans we’ve been feeling that hurt and pain and frustration for far too long and we are glad to see other people understanding our hurt and pain and frustration,” she said. “I don’t want to see one more black man die at the hands of law enforcement. That’s what this movement is about,” she said.
“Once this is done, we have to try to make change when it comes to police brutality,” Foxx said.
Referring to Floyd’s death, Foxx said, “If that man can be handcuffed, and that man can sit on that man’s neck for that long and feel comfortable about it, that means that he’s not afraid of what’s going to happen. We have to change the language. They have to be worried that I can go to jail for this.”
Gwen Woods, whose son Mario Woods was killed after San Francisco officers shot him multiple times in the Bayview District in 2015, also addressed the rally. The shooting, which was caught on video and widely shared on social media, became a rallying call for police reform, along with several other high-profile police shootings over the years.
Earlier this year, the city settled with Woods for $400,000.
“Mario didn’t get justice. They (the city) threw me a few crumbs to survive on but he didn’t get justice. He can’t rest in peace, because there’s no justice” she said. “Every time I saw that officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck, I saw Mario.”